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Questions over police search for Riley Strain as tipsters say calls go unanswered

Questions are mounting about the Nashville police search for missing University of Missouri student Riley Strain after a witness has complained that calls to a tip line are going unanswered.

Sabrina Martin told NewsNation that she called police to report seeing someone in a distinctive shirt similar to the one the 22-year-old was wearing on the night he disappeared.

She said she made the important connection several days on from Mr Strain’s disappearance and called the tipline – but is still waiting for police to get back to her.

“I have not heard from the police,” said Ms Martin, who volunteers with nonprofit group Souls United.

She added that some tipsters are being forwarded to the voicemail of the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Cold Case Unit.

“I have called. I have emailed local news stations. … I found the Crime Stoppers line. That lady did seem to take me seriously, but I have not heard anything back. She did not seem to be aware of Riley’s case,” she said.

The missing teen’s stepdad, Chris Whiteid, echoed Ms Martin’s comments, claiming that people who reached out to CrimeStoppers were told by investigators that “they don’t know anything about a Riley Strain case.”

Riley Strain has been missing since 8 March (AP)
Riley Strain has been missing since 8 March (AP)

The latest claims come after Mr Strain’s parents previously slammed police for doing “a B-minus job” of finding their son, who vanished shortly before 10pm on 8 March after being kicked out of a bar and becoming separated from his friends.

Search efforts were launched after the student’s friends reported him missing but so far police have found no trace of Mr Strain other than his bank card, which was found near the Cumberland River in Nashville more than one week after he vanished.

The 22-year-old’s parents have now called for the FBI to step in and take over the investigation from the Nashville cops. They also said that they have spoken to the “Cajun Navy,” a group that uses boats to help in rescue efforts following hurricanes and other storms.

“We feel that we need the extra resources to come in and help us as we try and get more organized for our family and see if we can’t bring some more clues to light,” Mr Whiteid said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Police have defended the search efforts and said they respect any evidence the “Cajun Navy” provides, according to News Channel 5.

Mr Strain had been visiting Nashville with friends from his college fraternity, Delta Chi, when he disappeared after being kicked out of Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink, a bar owned by country singer Luke Bryan in the city’s downtown, at about 9.35pm.

While it is not known why he was kicked out, the bar said in a statement that he was removed “based on our conduct standards.” It added that Mr Strain was served only one alcoholic drink and two waters.

Since then, the 22-year-old’s stepfather has revealed that Mr Strain FaceTimed his mother on the night of his disappearance and that he had gone to two more bars the same night before he was kicked out of the third.

However, Mr Strain’s stepfather insisted that “he didn’t even sound like he had been drinking a lot,” according to NBC News.

Riley Strain was last seen wearing this shirt while on a night out in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday 8 March 2024 (Metropolitan Nashville Police Department)
Riley Strain was last seen wearing this shirt while on a night out in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday 8 March 2024 (Metropolitan Nashville Police Department)

Casting further doubt on theories that his stepson had been suffering from the effects of alcohol on the night he disappeared, Mr Whiteid added: “I’ve done a fair amount of drinking in my life, and I still question whether it was alcohol or something else.”

Since his stepson’s disappearance, Mr Whiteaid said he has received messages from up to 10 people who claimed they were drugged while visiting bars in Nashville.

The Nashville Police Department last week released footage showing Mr Strain stumbling and falling over as he crossed the road and walked down Gay Street, close to where he vanished.

However, separate footage filmed minutes later appears to show Mr Strain walking upright as he talks to a police officer.

In the footage, from around 9.52pm, the officer is seen asking him how he is doing, to which the student replies: “I’m good, how are you?”

In a post on X, the police department said Mr Strain does not appear distressed in the footage.

The last person to potentially see Mr Strain claimed that he caused a “commotion” at a Nashville homeless encampment on the night of 8 March where his bank card was found, adding that he was “very intoxicated”.

“We heard a commotion. We looked back up. He almost fell over. The last bush right there caught him,” an unidentified man who lives in the camp told WZTV.

“He was very, very, very intoxicated. I never seen anybody stumble that hard before,” the man added. “I yelled get up. They said, ‘He’s just drunk. He’s okay’.’’

Police have reiterated that there is no evidence of foul play in Mr Riley’s disappearance.